This was excruciatingly difficult, even more so than previous years. In the end, I decided to go “California Dreamin” with my final 2013 NFL Three-Round Mock Draft.
You’ll know what I’m talking about soon, if you don’t already.
In a matter of days, if not sooner I’ll be the subject of great ridicule after being incredibly off on my annual mock, joining the likes of pretty much anyone else who offers their mock for public consumption and ends up woefully wrong when surprise picks and head scratchers litter the real draft in New York City beginning Thursday.
Setting myself up for additional disaster is my inclusion of trades this year. For those keeping score, I’ve conducted seven projected trades through my three rounds of mocking and yes, one of those deals is a major one involving the Buffalo Bills.
Each year we hear Buddy Nix, or whoever is the Bills general manager is tell media and anyone who will listen they’re open to offers and willing to move up or down the draft board.
It seems every year the Bills would prefer to move down in the first round, and this year I think it’s finally going to happen as I sense Buffalo can find a willing trade partner this year in the Minnesota Vikings.
The Vikings traded Percy Harvin to Seattle this offseason and even after signing Greg Jennings, need a player that can be explosive on offense and alleviate some pressure from Christian Ponder and Adrian Peterson.
I wholeheartedly believe that guy is Tavon Austin.
There’s no way the Vikings are going to land Austin if they play the patient waiting game and stand pat at No. 23. They won’t get him if they move up to 17 either. By my estimation the only way Minnesota can assure themselves of the playmaker they covet is by leapfrogging the New York Jets and their ninth overall picks. The Jets are a solid threat to snag Austin and in fact, I’d bet they would.
Therefore, I got the Vikings moving all the way up into Buffalo’s spot and the eighth pick. It’s probably the worst kept secret in the league that the Bills are likely to end up taking a quarterback with their first selection.
If they truly like two or three guys as potential franchise quarterbacks, as Nix has stated repeatedly, there’s no reason to believe they can’t choose between at least one or more of them at pick No. 23.
In this mock, the Vikings part with their first-round picks at 23 and 25 and in return move into Buffalo’s eighth spot and additionally pick up the Bills fourth-round (105) selection. Going by the time-honored NFL draft value chart, the deal is even as the Bills are giving up 184 value points and the Vikings 180.
Of all the trades I could think of, this one made most sense as a win-win for both parties. The Vikings get the guy they covet that would never be around if they don’t move up significantly, while the Bills select the guy they want at a position that most think would still be there in the late first anyway, and also picking up an extra first-rounder to go with it.
For the trade to work the Vikings would really need to want the guy they’re moving up for. In this case, I think it does.
It works for Buffalo equally—as long as quarterback is their target. If by some chance it’s not, they’d lose the player they really liked by moving down 15 spots and won’t agree to the trade.
However, I got a pretty strong feeling on who they have in mind and therefore, it works.
If you’ve been following my mock draft series this year the guy I got coming to Buffalo is hardly a surprise, but perhaps his battery mate with that second first-rounder may be.
I went with a position I’m not confident the Bills are satisfied with in the second round, and changed my third-round pick from a tight end to guard just today after listening to comments from the Bills scouting staff on a specific player.
Without further ado…
1. Kansas City- Luke Joeckel, OT (Texas A&M): Safest pick and gets the edge over Fisher in part because he’s from a bigger school.
2. Jacksonville- Eric Fisher, OT (Central Michigan): In testament to how crazy this draft could be, Geno Smith could be in play with this pick, and I ultimately (spoiler alert) have him going near the bottom of the first round. I think ultimately the Jags go with Fisher and get themselves a great offensive tackle.
3. Oakland- Dion Jordan, DE/LB (Oregon): Again, Smith could be in play here but I’ve wavered on that in recent weeks. Reggie McKenzie will make the smart pick and takes Jordan, who potentially could have a Von Miller type of effect on the Raiders defense.
4. Philadelphia- Star Lotulelei, DT (Utah): There’s lots of rumors that the Eagles are actively looking to trade down. If they don’t, I think this is their guy.
5. San Diego (via Detroit)- Lane Johnson, OT (Oklahoma): My first trade of the night sees the Chargers desperate to pick up a left tackle that can start in his first week as a rookie. This may or may not be the spot to spring up to (perhaps Philadelphia at four), but they have to make a move as there’s no way Johnson is falling to 11.
6. Cleveland- Dee Milliner, CB (Alabama): The last of the three teams that have considered Smith but end up passing. Milliner has some medical concerns but he’s truly a complete corner and I can’t see him getting past Cleveland. I’d be very, very interested to see what Buffalo would do if he slipped to the eighth pick. Milliner and Stephon Gilmore sounds like a pretty good corner pairing, don’t you think?
7. Arizona- Chance Warmack, G (Alabama): I’ve heard the Cards like their tackles better than we do. This pick helps further their offensive line and thankfully, would kill any Buddy Nix temptation of nabbing Warmack eighth overall. As good as he is no one wants to see the Bills use their first pick on a guard.
8. Minnesota- (via Buffalo)- Tavon Austin, WR (West Virginia): I got the Vikings moving all the way up into this spot for Austin. See my reasoning and the details above.
9. NY Jets- Barkevious Minko, DE/LB (LSU): He has some serious boom-or-bust potential.
10. St. Louis (via Tennessee)- De’Andre Hopkins, WR (Clemson): The Rams have worked out this kid twice in four days close to the draft and reportedly like him. Color me sold. Why not move up to ensure landing him? Carolina and New Orleans would be major threats to take Hopkins want if the Rams stand pat at 16.
11. Detroit (via San Diego) – Ezekiel Ansah, DE (BYU): A ton of talent but he’s only really shown it over one season. I’d be very wary of getting Aaron Maybin’d by him.
12. Miami- Sharrif Floyd, DT (Florida): May not be their biggest need but the Fins would be delighted to see Floyd fall into their lap.
13. NY Jets- Ryan Nassib, QB (Syracuse): Whoa. I feel like the Mark Sanchez era is soon coming to an end in New York, and I forecast them taking Nassib over Smith. There seems to be some validity to the speculation that the Jets really like Nassib, though others think it’s a smokescreen to try and get Buffalo to take him eighth. I’m in the camp that thinks Nassib to the Jets, even over Smith could happen.
14. Carolina- Kenny Vaccaro, S (Texas): Best player available at this point.
15. New Orleans- Jarvis Jones, LB (Georgia): The farthest he’ll fall is to Pittsburgh. If you watch his tape he should’ve went higher. If you focus on his workouts and injury history, he doesn’t belong in the first round.
16. Tennessee (via St. Louis)- Sheldon Richardson, DT (Missouri): Some think he can sneak into the top ten. I can’t find where that happens. That would be good news for the Titans.
17. Pittsburgh- D.J. Fluker, OT (Alabama): The Steelers can use a tackle badly and this is a good one, even if he took money from an agent and later said his Twitter was hacked.
18. Dallas- Jonathan Cooper, G (North Carolina): I originally had Dallas moving up to get Cooper. As I got into this final mock, I realized they may not have to do that.
19. Atlanta (via NY Giants)- D.J. Hayden, CB (Houston): I see Atlanta moving up and getting Hayden; a corner who at least one big-name analyst thinks is better than Milliner.
20. Chicago- Xavier Rhodes, CB (Florida State): Combination of need and talent makes this is a smart pick.
21. Cincinnati- Matt Elam, S (Florida): I have him higher than some.
22. St. Louis- Jonathan Crypien, S (Florida International): If they don’t move up for Hopkins they could try to move up from here or 16 for Vaccaro. If that doesn’t happen this is the next best safety on the board, and the Rams really need a safety.
23. Buffalo (via Minnesota)- Matt Barkley, QB (USC): I’m simply going to list random thoughts on how and why I’ve arrived at this pick.
The Bills signed Kevin Kolb at least in part so they weren’t forced to draft a quarterback with the eighth pick. I have Barkley to Buffalo after trading down. However, if you put a gun to my head and said no trades, I’d still have the Bills taking Barkley at eight. Against conventional wisdom and certainly the popular consensus, I sense the team likes Barkley better than Nassib.
(Keep in mind I’m talking about if they take either at the eighth pick and don’t trade down. Remember, folks, I have Nassib gone already in this mock.)
I get the whole Nassib thing. He’s become a media darling and the cool pick for Buffalo of late. Jon Gruden raves about him. Russ Lande has had him as his top quarterback since the draft process began. Greg Cosell is a big fan and nearly ever last-minute mock now projects Nassib landing in Buffalo.
I also can see why. Nassib has a stronger arm than Barkley, especially for the windy Buffalo cold. He’s certainly more mobile and athletic. Above all else he has complete familiarity with the Bills offensive system and in particular Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett. You can’t just write off three years of playing under the new Bills head coach and offensive coordinator as meaningless.
Still, I don’t buy the Bills drafting Barkley over Nassib if they have their choice between the two. This Bills staff loves Barkley. If there’s one credible report I can bring you through this draft process is that this organization as a whole likes Barkley a ton. They feel his arm is strong enough to succeed while possessing all the intangibles to be a winner; including his timing and accuracy on his throws, knowledge of the game, experience in a big-time environment and leadership skills.
I wouldn’t go as far to say I personally am a fan, but the (strong) feeling here is the organization will tab Barkley to come in and sooner than later due his part to turn their franchise around.
Time will tell if drafting Barkley at eight, 23 or anywhere else elevates the Bills to higher levels or sets them back three or more years, but the feeling I get is Barkley will be holding a press conference in Orchard Park on Friday afternoon.
And that includes if they stay at eight.
**EDITORS NOTE** Dee Milliner is my true wild card if A) he’s on the board at eight, B) the Bills can’t move down and, C) I’m completely wrong about the Bills taking a quarterback if indeed they like Kevin Kolb more than most assume. I think Buffalo would have a very hard time passing on Milliner, and so should you as a fan. He’s easily my non-QB pick at eight for Buffalo if he’s on the board.
24. Indianapolis- Cordarrelle Patterson, WR (Tennessee): Who saw Patterson lasting this long about a month ago? Good spot for him as he’ll get to learn behind the great Reggie Wayne.
25. Buffalo (via Minnesota)- Robert Woods, WR (USC): The Bills need a receiver and in this scenario, this is an ideal spot to get their guy. With Austin, Hopkins and Patterson gone, Woods would be the “highest-ranked” receiver on the board. In fact, I think the Bills like him more than Patterson, even if Patterson were on the board.
Truthfully speaking, selecting his USC teammate to Buffalo two picks earlier has little to do with it. .
During the Bills’ scouts meeting with the media on Tuesday, Matt Hand called Woods the complete package.
“He can play all three spots out there… three receiver spots,” Hand said. “He can return it for you. He’ll block. I mean he’s a complete package.”
Woods has plenty of measurables to be successful in this league. He ran a 4.42/40 at the Combine and ran the short shuttle in 4.36 seconds while doing the short cone drill in 6.83 seconds at his Pro Day.
More importantly he was incredibly productive at USC. He finished his career with 252 catches for 2,930 yards and 32 touchdowns, including 112 passes and 15 touchdowns as a true sophomore in 2011.
Perhaps his most notable game came as a freshmen while matched up against future NFL Pro Bowler Richard Sherman. USC lost to Stanford but Woods caught 12 passes for 224 yards and three touchdowns with Sherman looking helpless trying to stop him.
What keeps Woods from being a high first round pick is his lack of top line speed and at 6-foot-1, just so-so height. He’s also had some ankle issues and needs to get a little stronger, as he can sometimes get outmuscled from routes.
This would be an excellent choice for the Bills to make. Woods can instantly become a dependable receiver to help Stevie Johnson in the passing game and in time has the ability and work ethic to develop into a true No. 1 NFL receiver.
26. Green Bay- Tyler Eifert, TE (Notre Dame): I came very close to giving him to Buffalo one spot earlier. The Packers would be delighted to see this scenario unfold.
27. Houston- Justin Hunter, WR (Tennessee): I’m sure there’s plenty of critics out there that’d rather see the Bills take Hunter over Woods. Obviously, I’m not one of them.
28. Denver- Eddie Lacy, RB (Alabama): Willis McGahee is just about done.
29. New England- Tank Carradine, DE (Florida State): May not seem like an ideal fit, but he’s great value near the end of this round.
30, NY Giants (via Atlanta)- Menelik Watson, OT (Florida State): If the Giants can move down 11 spots and still get a quality tackle, they’ll be very happy.
31. Jacksonville (via San Francisco)- Geno Smith, QB (West Virginia): The slide finally ends for a guy most have had as the top rated quarterback in the draft. Jacksonville leapfrogs two spots just to make sure no one deals with Baltimore to get their guy. Sorry, Blaine Gabbert. In a related note, I could look like the biggest idiot if Smith ends up going in the top 10.
32. Baltimore- Manti Te’o, LB (Notre Dame): Rolando McClain sealed his fate following his latest arrest.
33. San Francisco (via Jacksonville)- Damontre Moore, DE (Texas A&M)
34. San Francisco- Keenan Allen, WR (California)
35. Philadelphia- Terron Armstead, OT (Arkansas- Pine Bluff)
36. Detroit- Kyle Long, OL (Oregon)
37. Cincinnati- Sylvester Williams, DT (North Carolina)
38. Arizona- Mike Glennon, QB (North Carolina State)
39. NY Jets- Desmond Trufant, CB (Washington)
40. Tennessee- Larry Warford, G (Kentucky)
41. Buffalo – Jamar Taylor, CB (Boise State): I regard Taylor as one of the more underrated players in this draft. Couple that with a need at cornerback, and this seems like a perfect match. Sure, the Bills re-signed Leodis McKelvin this winter and he’ll play plenty, but don’t be foolish to automatically lock him in as the starter opposite Stephon Gilmore. Besides that, the Bills have little proven depth behind the two with Ron Brooks and Justin Rogers.
Taylor is a talented, well-rounded corner who can play in both press and zone schemes. He’s more than eager to come up and play against the run and has the ability to make plays on the ball in the air, as his four interceptions in his senior season at Boise State indicate.
Of course, there are flaws in his game or we wouldn’t be discussing him in the second round. It’s been documented that he has issues back pedaling at times in coverage and his technique at this point leaves something to be desired.
Still he can be coached up and at this point of the draft, his talent and respected worth ethic make him a smart choice.
42.Kansas City (via Miami)- Bjoern Werner, DE (Florida State): This is a pick I think the Chiefs will get after trading Brandon Albert to Miami. This is also a guy who may got a lot higher than I have him projected.
43. Tampa Bay- E.J. Manuel, QB (Florida State): Josh Freeman better show more consistency in his contract year.
44. Carolina- Da’Rick Rogers, WR (Tennessee Tech): For what it’s worth, I had Rogers going to Buffalo in my last mock in the second round. If the Bills make no trades and select Barkley eighth without the benefit of grabbing Woods via the extra late first-rounder, I predict Rogers will end up with the Bills at No. 41.
45. Detroit (via San Diego)- David Amerson, CB (North Carolina State)
46. St. Louis- Jonathan Franklin, RB (UCLA)
47. Dallas – Arthur Brown, LB (Kansas State)
48. Pittsburgh- Kevin Minter, LB (LSU)
49. NY Giants- Eric Reid, S (LSU)
50. Chicago- Alec Ogletree, LB (Georgia): This guy is the hardest to forecast in the entire draft. I’ve heard some having him projected in the top half of the first round. I’ve also heard rumblings that he’s completely off draft boards of other teams. This pick could easily embarrass me come Thursday evening.
51. Washington- Jonathan Banks, CB (Mississippi State)
52. Minnesota- Cornelius Washington, DE (Georgia)
53. Cincinnati- Margus Hunt, DE (SMU)
54. Cleveland- Alex Okafor, DE/LB (Texas)
55. Green Bay- Vance McDonald, TE (Rice)
56. Seattle- Kawan Short, DT (Purdue)
57. Houston- Datone Jones, DL/LB (UCLA)
58. Denver- Corey Lemonier, LB (Auburn)
59. New England- Markus Wheaton, WR (Oregon State)
60. Atlanta- Zach Ertz, TE (Stanford)
61. San Francisco- Jonathan Hankins, DT (Ohio State)
62. Baltimore- Justin Pugh, OL (Syracuse)
63. Kansas City- Shamarko Thomas, S (Syracuse)
64. Jacksonville- Sam Montgomery, DE (LSU)
65. Detroit- Sio Moore, LB (Connecticut)
66. Oakland- Tyler Bray, QB (Tennessee): If by chance the Bills don’t take a quarterback with their first or second round pick, this could be the one they move back into the late second-round for.
67. San Francisco (via Philadelphia)- Tyrann Mathieu, CB (LSU)
68. Cleveland- Darius Slay, CB (Mississippi State)
69. Arizona- Montee Ball, RB (Wisconsin)
70. Tennessee- Aaron Dobson, WR (Marshall): I’ve had him to Buffalo in the second round of previous mocks. The Bills are high on him, but they already have Robert Woods in this mock. For the record, I think Dobson can evolve into a big star in this league.
71. Buffalo- Brian Winters, G (Kent State): Until today I was going with a tight end with this pick, But this could be a choice spot for the Bills to go out and get themselves a guard who potentially could start right away.
I particularly feel that way after hearing what Bills scout Brian Fisher had to say during a meeting with the media Tuesday.
“He’s got quick feet,” Fisher said. “He’s very strong and he’s one of the more physical and aggressive run blockers in the entire draft in my opinion. Guys like him they play early and they play a long time. I think he’s one of the better interior linemen in the draft. I just love how tough and aggressive he is.”
After the Minnesota trade the Bills wouldn’t have a fourth-round pick so if they elected to do so, tight end would be revisited in the fifth round. Should they go that route, Matt Fustenburg, Jordan Reed and Mychal Rivera could be three guys worth keeping an eye on.
** TRADE RECAP **
INVOLVING FIRST ROUND:
Detroit/San Diego: Cleveland moves down from 6 to 11 in the first round. Cleveland gets San Diego’s first round pick (11) and second round pick (45).
Buffalo/Minnesota: The Vikings move up to the Bills first-round pick (8) and also receive Buffalo’s fourth-round pick (105). In exchange Bills receive both of the Vikings first round picks (23 and 25)
St. Louis/Tennessee: St. Louis moves up from 16 to 10. Titans move down to 16and also get Rams third-round pick (78) and fourth-round picks (113)
Atlanta/NY Giants. The Falcons move up from 30 to 19 in the first-round. The Giants move down to 30 in the first-round and also receive Atlanta’s third-round (92) pick as well as an additional pick in 2014.
Jacksonville/San Francisco: Jags move up from second-round (33) and into the first round (31). The 49ers fall back into the second-round (33) and receive a fifth-round pick in 2014.
TRADES INVOLVING SECOND ROUND
Miami/Kansas City: Miami gets offensive tackle Brandon Albert. Kansas City gets Miami’s second-round pick (42) and a later round pick.
TRADES INVOLVING THIRD ROUND
San Francisco/Philadelphia: 49ers move up from 74 to 67 in third-round. In exchange the Eagles also receive a fourth-round pick (128).